VCA Animal Hospitals

Behavior Management Products

What products are available to help prevent undesirable behavior?

There are numerous products on the market that have been designed to help prevent undesirable behavior in pets. Leashes, harnesses, and head halters are needed to keep pets under control, especially when outdoors. A crate, cage or X-pen provides a safe comfortable home for the dog when the owners are not available to supervise. Child locks and child barricades such as baby gates can be used to keep pets away from potential problem areas.

Timed feeding devices and automatic watering devices can help maintain a regular feeding routine at times when the owners might be away from home.

What types of toys are recommended?

behavior_management_products_1
"Since dogs, especially young puppies, are strongly motivated to chew it is important to provide a variety of chew toys."

Since dogs, especially young puppies, are strongly motivated to chew it is important to provide a variety of chew toys. Many dental products make excellent chew toys while improving dental health. Find a few products that are safe, durable and that appeal to your pet. Some representative products of each type are listed here as examples. There may be other appropriate products available in your local area.

Many companies manufacture toys that can be stuffed or coated with food or treats, or that are filled with food that is only released when the toy is manipulated. Examples include Kong®, Kong Biscuit Ball®, Dental Stick®, Nylabone Crazy BallTM, Buster CubeTM, Tricky TreatsTM, Busy BuddyTM, Twist'N'TreatTM, Bouncy BoneTM. Toys that provide a moving target for chasing and pouncing are attractive to most cats. Examples include Feline FlyerTM, Cat DancerTM, Tiger ToyTM, and Laser MouseTM. Interactive toys provide an opportunity for social play with the owner. The Mutt PuckTM, Boomer BallTM, Water KongTM, and a variety of flying disks have been designed for interactive play with dogs. Some cat toys are designed for interactive play since they need to be set in motion by the owners, while others are propelled by battery power. The Kitty Kong® is a lightweight plastic toy that can be batted around by the cat, or pulled along or propelled by the owners to encourage chase and pounce. It has an opening that can be stuffed with food or catnip, and rubber band whiskers for nibbling. Toys that might be manipulated by the cat itself include Crazy BallsTM, which can be filled with either food or a flashing light toy for play. Even something as simple as an empty cardboard box or paper bag may be appealing to some cats.

Most cats benefit from scratching and perching products. A product known as Pavlov's CatTM delivers food treats each time the cat scratches the post. For scratching problems, plastic nail coverings, (Soft PawsTM) are available that can be glued onto the toenails to prevent damage to furniture. For cats that chew on household items such as plants, planting a cat herb garden may attract the cat.

Some dogs may become possessive over toys and food. Tug-a-JugTM is a toy made from a bottle with a rope in it. The bottle is filled with small treats and every time the dog pulls on the rope treats are released, motivating the dog to leave the toy and take the treats. This may help teach your dog to leave objects for a better reward.

Laser toys can present a problem to some cats and dogs, who can become frustrated if they are unable to achieve a desired outcome (catch the light). Some of these animals develop compulsive or obsessive light and shadow chasing. Pets that lose interest or cease the game on their own are not likely to develop this problem. If the dog or cat wants to continue light chasing when you have had enough, give a favored treat or toy as a reward to end the game or start another game instead.

What type of training collar should I use for walking and controlling my dog?

behavior_management_products_2The head halter is a quick and effective method for teaching the dog to respond to commands, allowing you to effectively implement a reward based training program. The halter controls the dog by exerting pressure behind the neck and around the muzzle, rather than by pulling against the trachea. By pulling forward and upward, you can prompt your dog to sit and as soon as the pet perform the appropriate response, you can immediately release the tension. A favorite treat or toy can be used to reinforce and "mark" the correct response.

All head halters are excellent walking and control devices and avoid placing pressure across the trachea. With the Halti®, Gentle Leader®, and Snoot Loop®, the leash is  attached to a ring beneath the muzzle and you can quickly and immediately redirect the head and close the mouth with any of them. With the EasywayTM and Canny CollarTM head halters, the leash is attached to a ring behind the skull, providing a quick and effective means of controlling pulling. The Gentle LeaderTM also functions as a "head collar" and can be fitted and adjusted so it can be left on the dog for supervised control and training. Body harnesses (Gentle Leader Easy Walk HarnessTM, Halti HarnessTM, and K9 Pull ControlTM) will effectively stop pulling, but do not provide head control. See our handout on head halter training for additional information on their use. For video support on the fitting and use of the Gentle LeaderTM head halter and the Easy Walk HarnessTM, visit www.abrionline.org.

What products are useful for house-soiling problems?

For house soiling in both dogs and cats, it is necessary to eliminate any residual odor to prevent the pet from being attracted to the odor at the site. A number of products are specifically designed to remove the stain or odor of pet urine, and are more effective than general household cleaners. Products that use enzymes, bacteria or a combination of these two, such as Anti-Icky Poo®, Outright Stain and Odor Eliminator®, Nature's Miracle®, Urine Off®, and Urine Erase® are particularly effective on urine stains that are relatively fresh and have not been pretreated. There are also products that are species-specific odor counteractants such as Cat Off®, which can be used to neutralize odors even after other stain and cleaning products have been applied. A For larger areas, a concentrated product will allow you to dilute out a sufficient quantity to saturate the entire area. Black lights and moisture detectors can help to identify the soiled site. For cats, a synthetic cheek gland pheromone called Feliway® is available to be sprayed on areas where the cat might be inclined to spray or mark, in order to reduce marking (See our complementary medicine handout for more details). For dogs that house soil, an indoor litter system or housetraining pads might be appropriate to teach the dog a new, more acceptable indoor elimination location.

What products are available for treating noise phobias and anxiety?

Commercial products are available that reproduce a variety of sounds that often cause fear in pets, including thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots. Some that are specifically designed for treatment of canine fears and phobias might also include a training manual on how to effectively desensitize and counter-condition. For further details, see our handout on thunderstorm and fireworks phobias. Recordings containing a wide variety sounds including vacuums, trucks, hot air balloons, airplanes, crying babies, etc., are useful for desensitization and counter-conditioning, or as background noises for habituation in puppies.

Some products have been designed to reduce anxiety in other ways, such as a wrap (anxiety wrap) which exerts constant pressure, and a cape that reduces static electricity associated with thunderstorms (Storm Defender Cape), although there is minimal data to support their efficacy at this time. The Calming Cap has been developed to reduce stimulus intensity during desensitization training by covering the eyes to reduce visibility of stimuli.


How do I decide what products to use to correct undesirable behavior?

Before using any product for interrupting or deterring undesirable behavior, the first question should always be whether the pet is being given suitable and sufficient enrichment and outlets for its behavior, and whether these are being adequately and consistently reinforced. In addition, it is essential that you determine if anything might be reinforcing the undesirable behavior so that this can be eliminated.

Numerous products have been designed to interrupt or deter undesirable behavior. However, the primary goal of training should always be to train the pet to exhibit the desirable behavior, rather than to punish the undesirable. Therefore, perhaps the most practical use for these products is to prevent recurrence of the problem during the owner's absence, or as an aid in disrupting undesirable behavior so that responses that are more desirable can be achieved and reinforced.

This is one area where the quality and durability of the product is essential, and the type of warranty may be an important consideration. Follow the instructions carefully, and supervise the pet whenever the product is being used. Punishment is intended to reduce the probability of a behavior in the future. To be successful, punishment must be administered during misbehavior, and must be sufficiently noxious or unpleasant to deter the pet.

"In fact, if the problem is related to fear and anxiety, punishment may serve to increase the pet's anxiety."

Before using any punishment technique, it is important to determine why the pet is exhibiting the behavior. It is of little value (and may be inhumane) to try to stop the undesirable behavior without resolving the underlying cause. In fact, if the problem is related to fear and anxiety, punishment may serve to increase the pet's anxiety. When considering methods of punishment for undesirable behavior (See our handout on punishment), behavior products can be particularly useful since they are less likely to cause fear or defensive behavior toward the owner. If the punishment device can be activated while the owner is out of sight, as in remote punishment or booby traps, then the pet may learn to cease the behavior whether the owner is present or not. If a training device is not effective immediately, discontinue its use, and seek professional advice, since continuing to reprimand or punish the pet is counterproductive and may create fear and anxiety.

Why do some behavior modification products utilize shock? 

For punishment to be effective, it must be sufficiently aversive or unpleasant to overcome the pet's motivation to perform the behavior. For this reason, some punishment devices use "shock" to deter the pet. When determining what punishment, if any, might be useful or appropriate for your pet, you must consider all the options available, the severity of the problem, the effects of the punishment on the pet (and you) and the consequences to the pet and you if the problem persists.

"The use of shock cannot be justified if there are other practical and more humane ways that the problem might be resolved."

In some countries, products that use any level of shock have been banned as being cruel and inhumane. The use of shock cannot be justified if there are other practical and more humane ways that the problem might be resolved. Electronic shock or "static" devices may be a viable alternative to restrictive confinement for pets that need to be kept away from specific areas. For example, because of the design of certain homes, the dog or cat that eliminates in inappropriate areas, or chews on electric cords, plants, Christmas trees, ornaments or valuable owner possessions may end up confined to small areas of the home for prolonged periods of time. As an alternative, indoor containment and avoidance devices might be used to keep pets away from rooms, furniture or indoor areas where problems might arise.

Owners with large yards and no fencing may need to keep their pet indoors, tied up, or confined to a small pen outdoors. Outdoor electronic containment fencing may be an alternative to keep pets from roaming off the property. Some containment devices have a tone that precedes the shock, providing an audible signal to the dog. After just a few pairings, the pet learns to avoid further shock. These systems vary in reliability and are best used when installed by professionals who also supervise the training. A variety of other avoidance devices may be as effective or more effective than shock products, without the need for physical discomfort; one example is a citronella spray boundary barrier.

It is important to note that even a highly noxious punishment may not be sufficient to overcome reflexive, innate or highly motivated behaviors. Consider, for example, the dog that continues to pursue porcupines even after receiving a face full of quills. Therefore, you should immediately discontinue the use of any device that is not immediately effective, since further use is cruel and inhumane.

What products are useful for training and punishment when the owner is present to supervise?

Physical forms of punishment should always be avoided as they can lead to physical injury, trigger fear and defensive aggression and are seldom effective at deterring the pet from repeating the behavior.

"In fact, physical punishment can serve to reinforce some unwanted behaviors by providing attention."

In fact, physical punishment can serve to reinforce some unwanted behaviors by providing attention. Instead, use a device that you can activate remotely to provide an immediate undesirable consequence that your dog can associate with a specific behavior (in which case the device is used as a punisher). You can also use this device as a means of interrupting an undesirable response (disruptive stimulus) so that an appropriate desirable response can be achieved and reinforced.

How can a device be used to train appropriate behavior?

The concept of a disruptive or inhibitory stimulus is that it is sufficiently startling to interrupt the behavior. Whether the disruptive stimulus is also a punishment will depend on its effect on the pet and the problem. Some pets may be sufficiently deterred by the disruptive stimulus that it will reduce the possibility of the behavior recurring, while others may be interrupted but will not be deterred from repeating the behavior, or will habituate to the stimulus over time. The goal of the disruptive stimulus is to inhibit the undesirable response (with a minimum of fear or anxiety), and provide a window of opportunity to achieve the desirable response (which can then be reinforced negatively and/or positively).

What devices can be used for pets that misbehave in the owner's presence?

Direct punishment or disruption devices include audible trainers (e.g. Barker BreakerTM, Sonic Pet TrainerTM), ultrasonic trainers (Pet-AgreeTM, Easy TrainerTM) or a citronella spray repellent (Direct StopTM). Rape alarms, water rifles, and compressed air may also be effective.

Why should the owner remain out of sight during punishment? 

"If the pet realizes that the owner is administering the punishment, the problem may cease when the owner is watching, but the pet will learn that the behavior is safe when the owner is out of sight."

If the pet realizes that the owner is administering the punishment, the problem may cease when the owner is watching, but the pet will learn that the behavior is safe when the owner is out of sight. Therefore, whenever possible, you should administer punishment while remaining out of sight, so that the pet does not associate the "punishment" with the owner.

What devices can be used to punish a pet while remaining out of sight?

behavior_management_products_3A remote citronella or scentless spray collar (available with citronella spray or scentless) called the Spray CommanderTM and a number of remote ultrasonic collars are available. The remote citronella spray collar also has an audible tone that can be paired with a favored reward so that it serves as a remote form of reinforcement (as in clicker training). A water rifle may also be effective. A remote vibration trainer (Pet Pager®) has been designed for deaf dogs. For cats, you might place a remotely activated alarm or remotely activated spray device (Spray CommanderTM) in areas that you want your cat to avoid (such as plants or counters).

Since it is imperative that pet owners use these devices during (not after) misbehavior, a pet monitor is another practical training tool. A small motion detector, The Tattle-TaleTM is capable of picking up the movement of a dog or cat on virtually any surface. The device can be set up in any area where the pet might "misbehave" (scratching, garbage raiding, climbing on counters, furniture etc.). Home security monitors can also be used for this purpose.

What can be done when the owner is absent?

Environmental punishment (or booby traps) may train the pet to stop the inappropriate behavior or to avoid selected sites even in the owner's absence. This type of punishment resembles the learning that occurs when pets are exposed to cars, barbed wire, cactus plants, sprinklers, and other unpleasant things in their environment. Automatic pet doors can be used to give one pet an opportunity to escape from other pets or to use a particular room or feeding area while the others are prevented from entry, since only the pet wearing the activation collar can enter through the door.

"With a little planning and ingenuity, it is often possible to design a successful booby trap out of everyday items."

With a little planning and ingenuity, it is often possible to design a successful booby trap out of everyday items. A few strips of double-sided tape, a few empty tin cans set to topple or an upside down plastic carpet runner may successfully keep pets out of an area.

Outdoor devices: Electronic containment systems that use citronella spray collars (scentless refills are also available) can be used to keep dogs within selected boundaries. Pet repellents (available from most garden centers), motion activated alarms (Critter GitterTM), a motion detector sprinkler (The ScareCrowTM), or a motion detector can of compressed air, (Garden Ghost®) might keep the owner's pet out of areas on the property (e.g. garden) or keep stray animals off the property. Ultrasonic deterrents appear to be variably effective at best.

behavior_management_products_4Indoor devices: Indoor citronella (or scentless) spray containment systems can also be used with indoor transmitters to keep pets away from selected areas or out of certain areas in the home. The ScraminalTM is a motion detector alarm. Alarm mats (ScratcherBlasterTM, SofaSaverTM) and shock mats (ScatMatTM, PetMatTM) are available to fit on windowsills, furniture or around plants. The Snappy TrainerTM has a plastic end that fits over a mousetrap to deter the cat or dog with minimal discomfort. A motion detector spray device (Ssscat) may be set up to keep cats (and perhaps dogs) away from plants, bird cages, fish tanks, drapes, windowsills, and furniture that might be scratched, as well as off tables and counters and out of rooms. Some cat and dog doors have been designed to be activated only by the pet wearing the activation collar or "key" so that individual pets may be allowed to access areas of the home, while keeping other pets away. Another product, the Virtual BarrierTM, has a transmission dish that activates a spray collar as the pet approaches. You place the dish in any location that you want the pet to avoid and it will receive a mildly unpleasant spray from its collar each time it approaches.

What products are useful to control and deter barking?

"For a bark-activated device to be effective, it must be sufficiently noxious to deter the barking, sensitive enough to detect each undesirable vocalization and specific enough that is not activated by extraneous stimuli."

For a bark-activated device to be effective, it must be sufficiently noxious to deter the barking, sensitive enough to detect each undesirable vocalization and specific enough that is not activated by extraneous stimuli. The Super Barker BreakerTM and K-9 Bark StopperTM are audible bark activated alarms that are designed to be placed on a counter or table in an area where a dog might bark (front hall, cage, etc.). Bark activated collars such as the Anti-bark collar spray collarTM and Gentle SprayTM emit an audible or ultrasonic noise, or a citronella (or scentless) spray with each bark.

PRODUCT MANUFACTURER INFORMATION

Direct Interactive Devices:

Barker Breaker, Mini Barker Breaker (sonic), www.amtekpet.com

Direct Stop Repellent, (citronella spray), US: Premier Pet Products, www.premier.com, Canada: Multivet, www.multivet.net

Pet Agree / Dazer II (ultrasonic), KII Enterprises - www.kiienterprises.com

Ultrasonic Pet Trainer - www.petsafe.net

Ultrasonic no-bark trainer - www.innotek.net

Dog Off - Ultrasonic and Sonic deterrent - www.lentek.com

Monitoring Devices:

Tattle Tale, (vibration motion sensor), KII Enterprises, www.kiienterprises.com

Remote Devices:

Spray Commander (remote citronella or scentless spray collar), US: Premier Pet Products, www.premier.com, Canada: Multivet, www.multivet.net

Pet Pager - Vibration stimulation remote collar, www.petsafe.net

Ultrasonic remote trainer, www.petsafe.net

Booby Traps (Environmental Punishment Devices) :

Indoor pet barrier - shock - www.petsafe.net

Indoor pet barrier / containment (Spray Barrier) - citronella or scentless spray collar US: www.gentleleader.com, CAN:www.multivet.net

Outdoor containment - shock - www.innotek.net, www.invisiblefence.com, www.petsafe.net

Outdoor containment (Virtual fence) - citronella or scentless spray collar US: www.gentleleader.com CAN: www.multivet.net

Ssscat - scentless motion detector spray (indoor use) - US www.gentleader.com, CAN: www.multivet.net (also available as MiniScareCrow or StayAway - www.scatmat.com)

Garden Ghost - scentless motion detector spray (outdoor use) - www.multivet.net

Scatmat - electronic avoidance mat - www.scatmat.com, www.petsafe.net

ScareCrow, motion activated sprinkler, Contech Electronics - www.scatmat.com

Scraminal /Critter Gitter, Scratcher Blaster, (motion activated alarms) - Amtek Pet Behavior Products - www.amtekpet.com

Snappy Trainer, Interplanetary Incorporated, www.interplanetarypets.com

Sticky Paws - www.stickypaws.com

 

Electronic Pet Activated Doors:

Manufactured or distributed by Staywell, Solo, Cat Mate, Cat Walk: www.petdoors.com, www.solopetdoors.com, www.catflaps.com, http://www.reilor.biz/pages/staywell.php, smarthome.com

Self Cleaning Litter:

www.petmate.com, www.littermaid.com

Automatic Feeding / Watering Devices:

Automatic drinking fountain - www.petsafe.com, www.lentek.com, www.petmate.com

Automatic / timed feeding dishes - www.lentek.com, http://www.reilor.biz/pages/staywell.php, www.smarthome.com, www.petsafe.net

Water dog - outdoor motion detector dog watering system - www.scatmat.com

Kongtime - Kong toy dispenser - www.kongtime.com

Bark Activated Devices:

Citronella or Scentless collars: US: Gentle Spray - www.gentleleader.com CAN; www.multivet.net

K-9 Bark Stopper (audible bark activated), Innotek Inc.

Sprinkler Barker Breaker, Ultrasonic Barker Breaker - www.amtekpet.com

Super Barker Breaker, SureStop Barker Breaker, Good Neighbor Barker Breaker (audible bark-activated deterrents) - www.amtekpet.com

Ultrasonic bark control table top unit, sonic bark control collar - www.petsafe.net

Bark Free and Super Bark Free audible and ultrasonic bark activated trainer - www.lentek.com

 

Head Halters:

Gentle Leader, USA: Premier Pet Products www.gentleleader.com, Canada: www.gentleleadercanada.com - for further support see abrionline.org

Halti, Campbell Pet Products - www.campbellpet.com, www.coastalpet.com, www.companyofanimals.co.uk

Snoot Loop, www.animalbehavior.com

Easyway New Trix Head halter - www.newtrix.ca

Canny Collar, The Canny Company - www.cannyco.com

No Pull Halters:

Halti Harness -www.companyofanimals.co.uk

Holt - Coastal Pet Products - www.coastalpet.com

No Pull Halter - Four Paws Products Ltd - www.fourpaws.com

Sporn training halter - Sporn Company - www.sporn.com

Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness, www.gentleleader.com

Sound Desensitization:

Multiple sounds for desensitization on CD: PABA www.gentleleadercanada.com

Thunder and Fireworks CD's for desensitization: Sounds Scary - www.soundsscary.com

Sound sociable - Socialization - www.soundsscary.com

Sound soothing - Babies - www.soundsscary.com

Master's Voice: - www.mastersvoice-dog.com

Sounds for Behavior Therapy CD - www.companyofanimals.co.uk

Sounds Good CD - Babies - Ryan, T. Legacy Canine Behavior and Training, 2005

Thunderstorms, Fireworks and Traffic CD's - www.calmaudio.com/products.html

Products for reducing anxiety:

Anxiety wrap - http://www.anxietywrap.com

Storm defender cape - www.stormdefender.com

Calming cap - gentleleader.com

Odor Eliminators:

KOE/AOE/Cat Off/Dog Off (odor neutralizers) - Thornell Corp. www.thornell.com

Moisture urine sensor, Anti-Icky Poo (AIP) - Mister Max www.mistermax.com

Outright Stain and Odor Removal Products - www.bramton.com

Urine-off - www.urine-off.com

Urine-Erase: http://www.reidell.com/products.asp

Ask your veterinarian for suggestions on products that might be most suitable for your household.

Miscellaneous Products:

Soft paws nail coverings - www.softpaws.com

Selected play and training products - see your veterinarian or pet supplier for other suggestions

Pavlov's cat - cat scratch feeder - http://www.mktmkt.com/pavlovscat.html.

Dogzilla Dog Toys - www.aspenpet.com

Kongs, treats and stuffing - www.kongcompany.com

Nylabone - www.nylabone.com

Peek and Play toy box (cats) - http://www.esmartcat.com

Premier Pet Products - Busy Buddy Toys - www.gentleleader.com

Planet Dog Toys - www.planetdog.com

Buster cube - www.bustercube.com

Related Tags

activated, anxiety, audible, automatic, avoid, bark, barker, behavior, booby, breaker, cats, chew, citronella, collar, desensitization, desirable, detector, deter, device, devices, disruptive, dogs, electronic, fear, feeding, food, furniture, gentleleader, halter, halters, head, http, important, indoor, lentek, multivet, noxious, odor, outdoor, owner, owners, pets, petsafe, physical, plants, premier, prevent, punishment, reduce, remote, response, scatmat, scentless, shock, spray, stimulus, sufficiently, toys, trainer, treats, ultrasonic, undesirable, urine, variety

Looking to learn more?

We also offer free, instant access to over 1,500 related articles on your pet's health including preventive medicine, common and not so common diseases, and even informative case studies. We encourage you to read any of these popular articles below or search our extensive pet health library.

Most Popular Articles

About our approach to exceptional pet health care

At VCA Animal Hospitals, our veterinarians take you and your pet's health seriously. With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. We understand your pet is an extension of you, and appreciate the opportunity to share in providing exceptional pet care and quality of life.

* Free initial health exam for new clients only. Not to be combined with any other offer. Not good toward boarding, grooming, prescription and non-prescription medication, and retail items. Not good toward emergency and/or specialty veterinary services. Coupon good for up to two pets (dogs or cats only) per household. Redeemable only at a general practice VCA Animal Hospital. For pet owners who are aged 18 and older.

If you are a new client, you can get a free first exam* on your first visit.

Free First Exam

Get to know us by visiting one of our neighborhood hospitals.

Locate a Hospital
CLOSE CLOSE

General Practice

Page not found in Database

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Specialty Care

Page not found in Database

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Emergency Care

Page not found in Database

CLOSE CLOSE